WASHINGTON, D.C. — If Steven Colbert’s estimate of the number of people who attended the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the National Mall Saturday was 6 billion, at least 100,000 of those must have been Cornell students.
The occasional Cornell T-shirt could be seen in the crowd of what The New York Times estimated to be 200,000 people. Groups of students carpooled from campus, and the Cornell Democrats organized carpools and lodging for 53 of its members so that they could attend the rally and phone bank for Tuesday’s elections at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.
But Jon Stewart, who headlined the event alongside Colbert, never took a political stance. He said he hoped the rally would restore sanity to the world of politics and to the main-stream media, which, in his view, distorts the public opinion of government and the world and makes people unnecessarily afraid.
“We live in hard times, not end times,” Stewart said during a moment of seriousness toward the end of the three-hour rally.
However, other serious moments were often broken by Stewart and Colbert’s comedy. Stewart said that Americans could look to the Lincoln Tunnel in New York as an example of how to put aside differences and to come together.
"If we are to get through the darkness and back into the light, we have to work together,” he said. “And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.”
Attendees sported a variety of signs calling for fear or sanity. One man in his 20s sported a sign that said, “Hide yo kids” on its front, with a reverse that said, “cuz they rapin’ everybody out here.” Another sign read, “The Rent is Too Damn High.”
Cornell students at the Cornell Center in Washington also walked down to the National Mall for the rally. Elliott Moreno ’12 said that he received an e-mail from officials at the center asking students to not take in any out-of-town guests. Moreno said that he came to the mall not to rally for a cause, but to be entertained.
Moreno was also in Washington during conservative talk-show host Glen Beck’s Rally to Restore Honor, which Stewart and Colbert seemed to satirize and mock. Moreno said that Cornell students went to Beck’s rally as well. “I think a lot of people wanted to see all the nutjobs,” he said.
Jeff Roshko ’11 drove from Ithaca and stayed with friends near Washington, D.C. He said that he identified with the rally’s message of thinking reasonably and independently. He said such thinking is something that many Cornell students already do.
“A lot of people here watch the main news stations and try to find stuff online,” Roshko said. “People here find multiple sources for the same story. The message is not something that I had to hear from Stewart, and I think that most people at Cornell would agree with me.”